Elmo actor faces abuse lawsuit

Elmo actor faces abuse lawsuit

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By VERENA DOBNIK

NEW YORK (AP) -- A man who initially recanted sex abuse allegations against the former puppeteer of the "Sesame Street" character Elmo has sued him, alleging the entertainer lured him into drug-fueled sex when he was 16.

"I was taken advantage of by someone a lot older, and manipulated," Sheldon Stephens, who's now 24, told a Manhattan news conference on Tuesday.

He said he had met puppeteer Kevin Clash at a networking event for models and actors, and was later brought by limousine from his home in Pennsylvania to a New York apartment. There, Stephens said, Clash smoked crystal meth while giving the teenager another recreational drug.

In a federal lawsuit filed Monday in Pennsylvania, Stephens accused the 52-year-old Clash of sexual battery for childhood sexual abuse; travel with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct; and coercion and enticement to sexual activity. Stephens is asking for unspecified damages and coverage of his legal expenses.

Clash's attorney, Michael Berger, said in a statement Tuesday that his client denies any wrongdoing. He said Stephens already admitted he had had an adult consensual relationship with Clash.

Three other men also are suing Clash, alleging underage sex. Clash resigned from "Sesame Street" in November.

Stephens first made the allegations last year. His lawyer, Jeff Herman, said Stephens recanted over the possibility of a settlement, but none was ever reached. Herman said his client would not discuss details of any possible agreement.

Stephens said at the news conference that he was 22 when the relationship ended. He said he only took action after watching "Sesame Street" with his young nieces.

"When I started to realize my nieces were idolizing this character, it just disgusted me inside because I knew what had happened to me," Stephens said.

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